The Iron Giant Review
By Athan Bezaitis
In the early days of animation, Warner Brothers cartoons spawned out of a desire to displace the overtly conservative and often sappy Disney characters. Bugs, Daffy, and Porky Pig were a little more rambunctious, daring, and raunchy than their Disney counterparts setting a new trend in children's entertainment that was widely accepted. While Disney is still king of the animated feature film (The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) the Warner Brothers product seems to be a bit less inhibited with it's brand of humor, (Space Jam) appealing to both children and adults. The Iron Giant is just this kind of fun. It's a movie that the kids are going to love, which is complemented with adult humor and themes for the rest of the audience to appreciate.
Set in 1957, young Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) is fascinated with the lore of an old fisherman who declares that he has seen a UFO crash and a giant creature emerge from the ocean. Against his mother's (Jennifer Aniston) wishes, Hughes searches the forest surrounding his hometown of Rockwell, Maine until he finds and rescues the 50-foot robot-like-creature being shocked to death after an attempt to eat a power plant. The two become friends and with the help of junk-yard owner/artist/beatnik Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick Jr.) they manage to hide the giant from the rest of the town. This becomes increasingly difficult because of the giant's voracious appetite for metal and the presence of Government Agent Chuck Mansley (Christopher McDonald) who keeps snooping around town trying to learn more about this mysterious giant robot that locals keep reporting. The giant can't stay hidden for long and when it is finally discovered a climactic conclusion ensues.
Director Brad Bird's (Batteries Not Included, The Simpsons, The Critic) film carries a powerful anti-authority stance parodying the sentiments of war-mongers who believed a better bomb was the answer to all the country's problems during the cold war. The launch of Sputnik, old classroom films of "duck and cover" in case of a bomb, and an overzealous "shoot first- ask questions later" general are all ridiculed throughout. Even the beatnik is seen as a "hero" while the government agent, who believes that if the giant was not made by the US then it must be destroyed, is the villain. I enjoyed this alternative viewpoint of American history and I also liked a little of the bathroom humor that you'll never find in any Disney animation flick. Nothing too tasteless though.
The animation was good, very impressive at certain points. I was relieved that there were no musical numbers(a Disney forte)although I thought the soundtrack could have been better. The voice talents were also excellent but I have a hard time imagining Jennifer Aniston as a responsible mother (I'll always see her as Rachel from Friends). Overall, this was an enjoyable movie. I recommend this one as a good time for the whole family.
Now available on special edition DVD, this long-awaited disc includes commentary track from Bird and other animators, a branching system taking you to documentary segments, and eight additional scenes. Watch for a little extra Vin Diesel love while you're at it!
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Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 6th August 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $23.2M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Warner Bros. Animation
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Fresh: 126 Rotten: 4
Cast & Crew
Starring: Jennifer Aniston as Annie Hughes (voice), Harry Connick Jr. as Dean McCoppin (voice), Vin Diesel as The Iron Giant (voice), Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Lynley Tensedge (voice), James Gammon as Foreman Marv Loach / Floyd Turbeaux (voice), Christopher McDonald as Kent Mansley (voice), John Mahoney as General Rogard (voice), Eli Marienthal as Hogarth Hughes (voice), M. Emmet Walsh as Earl Stutz (voice), Jack Angel as Additional Voices, Bob Bergen as Additional Voices, Mary Kay Bergman as Additional Voices, Michael Bird as Additional Voices, Devon Cole Borisoff as Additional Voices, Rodger Bumpass as Additional Voices